Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
Look at the front cover of Vampire Weekend's self titled debut LP. A Polaroid of a posh chandelier hanging over unknown heads. Simple, yet immensely suggestive: Is this meant to represent the self-conscious privileged status in which the band themselves are positioned? The fragility of superficiality? The fact that music (portrayed by a little speaker on the corner) can be less obvious than the central object (an image of wealth)? Or maybe it's just a Polaroid of a posh chandelier hanging over unknown heads... whatever the goal, after listening to the eleven tracks that make up this most unexpected of debuts, you get the sense that the Columbia graduates have achieved it.
The concept of mixing African modern pop and “Indie” guitar strumming (with a touch of classical western string arrangements) might be extremely pretentious and certainly conjures up dozens of unwelcomed names, but it is in their own limitations and the sheer simplicity of the delivery that Vampire Weekend finds an exciting starting point. All this is perfectly encapsulated on debut single 'Mansard Roof', a sweetly calm song about escapism, looking at things from a superior standpoint and quite possibly the end of the Falklands War. This encyclopaedic knowledge of culture and history serves as fuel to Ezra Koening's subtle lyrics which evoke lectures, seminars and Ralph Lauren polo shirts all at the same time: Oh yes, even their names scream “Academia!”.
Here in dear ol' Blighty, you wouldn't be wrong in thinking no one likes a posho Ivy League American student singing about climbing the Dharamasala, yet the press world has been drooling over this record. What in Stephen Fry's name is going on? I hear you cry. If pressed against the wall to give an answer, I would tentatively say it's actually all down to honesty, a quality not often seen in the theatrical world of pop and something which seems to be Vampire Weekend's rule number one. 'Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa' might be a description of the musical leniency of the song with the same title, but lyrically it's actually about the crass superficiality of some of their accommodated, less conscious fellow uptown neighbours. And it's their subtle, educated criticism of their own status which proves to be the source of empathy this band is rapidly cultivating.
Even with the relegation of one of their best tracks ('Ladies of Cambridge') to B-Side status, Vampire Weekend succeed in creating a compact and concise work with enough hooks to sell records and feed a Congolese rural family (no pun intended, please!).
Release Date: 29th January 2008.